Friday, December 22, 2006

Happy Holidays

From each of us here at AME Marketing, we wish you all a very merry Christmas and a happy New Year!

We’re off to throw some snowballs - if Santa can bring us some snow.

See you in 2007


Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Charity begins at Christmas..., an online business, people and location finder has made a pledge to donate money from its paid listing searches to the National Missing Persons Helpline this Christmas. From 18th December fifty pence from every premium people, business or place search made on the website will be given to the charity.

As well as donating money, 192 will also be sharing its know-how to help the charity put people back in touch. The managing director, Keith Marsden, affirmed that as well as giving funds directly, wanted to help build awareness of the thousands of missing persons from all walks of life that the National Missing Persons Helpline helps reunite with their families and friends every year. Last Christmas the helpline received more than 3, 500 calls.

Although companies have become increasingly aware over the years that being seen to be ethical and caring is important, it is still nice to see corporations caring about something other than their profit margin. At this time of year it is especially valuable for a charity dedicated to finding missing persons and supporting those who are left behind to receive some support itself.

Of course, there are many other charities that also deserve support. You cannot help everyone however and picking one worthy cause is better than helping no one.

Putting aside my usual cynicism, I think that this is a nice gesture from a company who seem to genuinely care about the cause they are helping. And Christmas is a perfect time to lend support to such a charity.

Spreading a little love goes a long way, not only for your reputation. Thinking about all the money that is spent on presents in December, it’s nice to see that some money is being spent to help out a good cause.

It is after all, the season of good will.

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Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Just Try It Out #3: Customer Feedback

Your company may already have an idea of what your customers think about you. But, without proper research, you cannot be certain. By conducting regular, formal customer feedback surveys, you can identify the needs, wants and opinions of your customers in a much more accurate manner.

If you are unsure where to start, the following tips will give you an idea of how to prepare and conduct the feedback, and what to do with the answers found.

Think about what you want to find out
Write down everything you would like to know from your customers, and then think about which questions you actually need to know. If you have too many questions clients will tire of your questionnaire, so keep it short and make sure it is of use. Select only the questions that will have a bearing on your business decisions.

Think about who you want to ask
You don’t need to ask every client you have ever had each time you conduct feedback. Be focused and profile clients to target. However, avoid only selecting clients who will provide a positive response. Negative feedback is just as useful, if not more useful, than praise.

Think about how you will contact clients
The most appropriate method of contact will depend on your target group. Methods include electronic means, such as through a website or via e-mail; traditional methods, such as by post, fax or telephone; or face-to-face interviews.

Think about the language you use
Questions should be easy to understand and should avoid being leading or vague. Try also to make questions interesting. After all, your customers are doing you a favour; it’s only fair to make the experience as painless as possible for them.

For small feedback surveys, a simple spreadsheet may suffice to analyse the information collected. Depending on how in-depth your survey is however, you may need to use survey software to analyse the results accurately. Once analysed, try not to get bogged down by all the statistics. Think about the initial question and how the analysed answer relates to this, this will help you to make sense of it all.

Think about how to put the information to good use
Consider how the results from the survey affect your business and what realistic changes you can make to make an improvement.

Above all, don’t let the information go to waste.

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Thursday, December 14, 2006

Turning a bad situation around

The scandal surrounding the poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko erupted on November 1st and over the next three weeks the drama unfolded as places that Mr Litvinenko had visited before he was hospitalised were checked for traces of the radiation he had been poisoned with.

Itsu, a sushi chain in London, was one such place. Alexander Litvinenko ate at the restaurant before being admitted to hospital. Following a check, traces of Polonium 210, the radiation used to poison Mr Litvinenko, was found at the store in Piccadilly, Soho. The store therefore had to be closed for a clean-up operation and is now police protected. Staff who could have potentially picked up a dose of the radiation have all now been tested however and luckily have been given the all clear. The restaurant is set to re-open now in the New Year.

But, what is the company to do in the meantime? Having police stationed outside your radioactive restaurant is not the best publicity a company could wish for. Instead of lying down to the unfortunate situation however, Itsu have had some fun with the hoardings which have had to be placed outside their store.

Realising that the worst is now over, the company have erected a James Bond-inspired hoarding outside the Piccadilly restaurant. Incorporating the famous gun barrel motif, Friday’s message read ‘An international espionage incident has transformed this Itsu into a world-famous meeting place,’ ‘Sad and shocked, we would like to thank you for the many e-mails of encouragement. Our customers and staff are magnificent.’

Itsu operations manager Glenn Edwards explained that the hoardings, designed in-house, have been a spontaneous response to the situation. He added that ‘What has happened is very sad, but we want to let people know that we will be open for business in the New Year,’ ‘It’s been a crazy few weeks.’

Now, that’s an example of how to turn around a disastrous situation for your company. Let Itsu be a lesson. You can’t control outside events, but you can respond to them in a controlled and clever manner. By responding well in fact, you may even be able to attract better awareness and more sales than before. I certainly had never heard of Itsu before, but if I’m visiting Piccadilly any time soon, I might just head in for a bite to eat…


Wednesday, December 13, 2006

How much do your bargain jeans really cost?

In the last ten years women’s clothing prices have fallen by a third and the “value” end of the market is now booming. In 2005, £6 billion of clothes sales were in this end of the market. And, one in four of all women’s clothing bought in the UK is bought in Tesco, Asda, Primark or Matalan. In spite of this, only one in ten pounds is actually spent in these stores.

So what is the cost of consumers being offered clothing at such a low price?

Last week Tesco, Primark and Asda were under fire for their use of Bangladeshi factories that pay workers just 5p per hour. While clothing sales were worth £750 million and £2 billion in 2005 for Tesco and George respectively, some of the workers making their garments earned as little as £96 that year.

Granted, the cost of living in such a country is considerably less than living in the UK for example. However, the living wage in Bangladesh is calculated to be a minimum of £22 per month. Those working the EU maximum of 48 hours per week could not hope to make this money. Yet, even those who are working 80-hour weeks, and this is a regular occurrence, still do not make the living wage. Workers can earn as little as £8 per month, while better paid sewing machine operators might receive only £16 per month.

Wages are not the only problem for these workers. Many factories are ‘potential death traps’ containing dangerous machinery and / or toxic chemicals. Stories of factory collapses and fires are not uncommon. In addition, more than 80% of garment workers are women, who often face prejudice and harassment and are rarely given maternity pay.

As consumers, it is hard to ignore the affect that we have had. Pressure for cheaper and cheaper clothes and tomorrow’s designs today has driven the changes in the clothing market. We don’t want to pay £5 for a t-shirt, we want to pay £3, and this has led to these larger chains putting pressure on suppliers to provide garments at lower and lower cost in order to ensure a profit is still made.

A couple of pounds more for a t-shirt wouldn’t make a big difference to us, but it would to those making them. Perhaps we should start using our influence to drive prices up instead of down.

If you would like more information, visit where you can read more about the issue and get involved in the campaign if you wish.


Thursday, December 07, 2006

Just Try It Out #2: Follow-up Telesales Calls

In part two of our series of marketing tips, we look at an area that can often give marketing DIY enthusiasts a bit of a headache - making those necessary follow-up telesales calls.

Be warm!
Naturally, prospective customers are much more receptive to "warm" calls than cold. Precede your telephone campaign with a direct marketing postal mailshot to up-to-date named contacts.

Smile and stay calm!
There's really nothing to be nervous about! Try to smile as you speak confidently and clearly, at an even pace.

Don't be 'phoney'!
Be genuine and steer clear of expressing what could be perceived as spurious sentiments. Be as natural, professional and honest as you can.

Cut to the chase!
Don't beat about the bush. Your prospective customer will prefer it if you divulge the real reason behind your call early in the conversation. If the customer is not interested, you won't have wasted time unnecessarily with idle chit-chat.

Call back on time!
If someone tells you that the call is inconvenient (without being dismissive) politely offer to call back at a more agreeable time. If a time is given, make sure the action is followed through as agreed.

Don't take rejection personally!
Telephone campaigns inevitably lead to some rejection. Don't take it to heart! Most prospects will object to the product or service on offer, rather than who is offering it.

Take complaints seriously!
If anyone gives a firm objection to being telephoned, act on it straight away. Apologise for the inconvenience and reassure them that their details will be removed from future sales activity.

Don't give up!
Even if one telephone campaign does not work as well as you'd hoped, don't get too despondent. Practice makes perfect so keep trying!

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Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Dreaming of an orange Christmas

Coca-Cola has a Christmas campaign every year. Its usual focus is on Santa Claus with an old-fashioned theme, taking us back to the days when children were happy to find an orange and an apple in their stockings and weren’t pestering their parents from September about what presents they wanted. They want to give us that warm, nostalgic feeling, for us to associate it with their company and buy their product during the Christmas period. Seems successful enough. Coke is, after all, still one of the world’s favourite soft drinks.

When Irn-Bru was considering what type of message to project in their first Christmas campaign then, did they think about emulating this successful strategy? Erm… No.

In true Irn-Bru style, they opted for humour. We wouldn’t have expected anything else.

Their first 60-second advert in ten years, “Phenomenal Christmas”, is based on the famous seasonal song “Walking in the Air” from 'The Snowman' animated film. The boy begins by flying happily in the air with his new friend, the snowman, but finds himself on the wrong side of the frosty character when he refuses to share his Irn-Bru. He still ends up flying through the air, yet it is on his drop to George Square after the snowman steals his beloved drink.

Gerry Farrell of the Leith agency, who developed the ad, stated “I think it’s Barr’s plan that the advert comes back Christmas after Christmas”. “We’re hopeful that it’ll become a well-loved Scottish classic.”

We hope so too! If you haven’t already seen the ad, watch and laugh! And, if you feel like singing aong, here are the lyrics:

“We're walking in the air,
I'm sipping on an Irn-Bru,
My chilly snowman mate says he would like some too.
I tell him "get your own",
He looks like he is going to cry,
I tell him once again, the Irn-Bru is mine.
Now I'm falling through the air,
I wonder where I'm going to land.
He nicked my Irn-Bru and let go of my hand.”

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Friday, December 01, 2006

And now on to alcohol

Ofcom may have only just set out new rules for junk food advertising, but campaigners are already gearing up to protest about another evil in our society – alcohol. The "national agency on alcohol misuse" Alcohol Concern is now planning to lobby MPs to gain support for a ban on all alcohol advertising before the 9pm watershed.

But what would such a ban mean? Certainly in Scotland, alcohol advertising and sponsorship seems to pervade many aspects of our lives. It's on our Premier League football tops, it's sponsoring arts events such as the Fringe, comedy festival, film festival, book festival and 'T In The Park'. It's in magazines and on the television. This is the very thing that campaigners are opposed to. It's argued that this type of mainstream promotion "normalises alcohol" and promotes it to under-age people who are attracted by the association with an activity of interest to them.

In September of this year, the government rejected calls for tighter controls on alcohol advertising and sponsorship. Buoyed by the recent ban on junk food however, campaigners are set to fight once again.

Countries such as Kenya and Norway have complete bans on advertising alcohol on TV and billboards, while other Scandinavian countries also have tight controls. Britain may not have this, but there are strict controls over the content of alcohol ads, such as a ban on using cartoons or anything that may attract an under-age audience. Drink companies also now are not allowed to imply that there is a link between the consumption of alcohol and social or sexual success. Furthermore, they have to preach the importance of responsible drinking. Companies such as Diageo have even appointed celebrities, in their case Formula 1 World Champion Mika Hakkinen, as responsible drinking ambassadors. But is this enough?

The problem of alcohol in Scotland, and Britain as a whole, is certainly not all to blame on marketing making us want something that we wouldn't normally. Yes, alcoholism and under-age drinking is a huge problem in this country, but I cannot believe that it is all down to advertising and sponsorship. Long before televisions, billboards and football sponsorship, etc. there was still a great number of alcoholics in this country. Taking away advertising is not the solution. Better education and changing attitudes towards alcohol is. The government is trying to address these problems. Yes, perhaps they have not gone far enough, but the problem is too deep rooted to be solved in only a few years.

Let's not turn the country into a complete nanny state. Many people can drink socially and do not have a problem. Many young adults under the age of 18 do not drink. Festivals such as the Fringe bring so many tourists into the country and are events that everyone can enjoy.

Marketing is not evil – honest!